Current Research

Research in the Mullen lab is aimed at understanding the origin and maintenance of diversity at all levels of biological organization. Within this broader context, we are particularly interested in the link between divergent natural and sexual selection of adaptive traits (e.g. – mimicry in butterflies) and the origins of barriers to gene exchange between closely-related populations (i.e. – speciation).
Current projects in the lab have focused on addressing fundamental questions about patterns of biodiversity (e.g. – latitudinal gradients in species richness), and the role that life history evolution plays in driving adaptive diversification at both the larval and adult life-history stage among Neotropical Adelpha butterflies.
Students and postdocs in the lab employ a wide-variety of approaches, including: RAD-based phylogenetics and QTL-mapping, comparative and population genomic analyses of whole genome sequence data, RNA-seq, functional assays (e.g. -CRISPR/Cas9), as well as more traditional ecological techniques (e.g. – model-based predation experiments, behavioral and chemical assays of hostplant preference and performance).

Selected Publications

  • Tibbets EA, Mullen SP, Dale, J (2017) Signal function drives phenotypic and genetic diversity: the effects of signaling individual identity, quality, or behavioral strategy. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. B: Biol. 372(1724): 20160347.
  • Finkbeiner SD, Briscoe AD, Mullen SP (2016) Complex dynamics underlie the convergent evolution of imperfect Batesian mimicry. Evolution 71(4): 949-959.
  • Ebel ER, Hill R, Willmott KW, Sorenson M, Mullen SP (2015) Rapid diversification associated with ecological specialization in Neotropical Adelpha butterflies. Molecular Ecology 24:2392-2405 DOI: 10.1111/mec.13168.
  • Gallant JR, Imhoff VE, Martin AR, Savage WK, Chamberlain N, Pote B, Peterson CP, Smith GE, Evans BR, Reed RD, Kronforst MR, Mullen SP (2014) Ancient homology underlies adaptive mimetic diversity in butterflies. Nature Communications 5. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5817.
  • Kunte K, Zhang W, Tenger-Trolander A, Palmer DH, Martin A, Reed RD, Mullen SP, Kronforst MK (2014) doublesex is a mimicry supergene. Nature 507(7491): 229-32.
  • Kronforst MK, Kapan DD, Hansen M, Crawford N, Kulathinal R, Mullen SP (2013) Hybridization reveals the genomic architecture of speciation. Cell Reports, 5(3): 667-677.
  • The Heliconius Genome Consortium (2012) Butterfly Genome reveals promiscuous exchange of mimicry adaptations among species. Nature 487(7): 94-98.
  • Mullen SP, Savage WK, Wahlberg N, Willmott KR (2011) Rapid diversification and not clade age explains high diversity in neotropical Adelpha butterflies. Proc. Roy. Soc. B.  278: 1777-1785. (corresponding author).
  • Courses Taught:

    • BI 107 Introductory Biology
    • BI 309 Evolution
    • BI 504 Advanced Evolutionary Analyses
    • BI 515 Species and Speciation

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